Schell: Pintxo a casual, delicious way to dine when visiting Spain

Eskerrik asko San Sebastian! After a pleasant five-hour train ride across Spain we arrived in Basque country.

Pintxo like these are named for the skewers usually piercing them. The list to order from is extensive.

Eskerrik asko San Sebastian! After a pleasant five-hour train ride across Spain we arrived in Basque country.  Like our introduction to the Catalan language and culture of Barcelona, we were quickly lost in yet another strong new culture and the language of Euskara.

Euskara is an ancient language that is linguistically interesting because it has not been shown conclusively to be related to any other language.  Alas, the only word in the Basque native tongue that we mastered on our visit to San Sebastian was eskerrik asko- which means thank you.  We utilized this world several times a day, usually after consuming something delicious, and our fumbled pronunciation and earnest effort won us many smiles.

Our accommodation in San Sebastian was chosen after careful investigation through my favorite travelling tool: Trip Advisor  We chose Pension Belles Artes because of its almost ridiculously high praise from Trip Advisor’s visitor reviews.  Guests went on and on about Carmen and Liere the amazing mother daughter team that ran this small pensione (family-owned boarding house)- I wondered, could they really be this wonderful? Answer: An emphatic yes!

We were greeted like family, (or more like really, really well loved family) with hugs, kisses, a tutorial on the city complete with in depth information on where to eat, what to see and even who to say hi too – they planned our trip resulting in our whirlwind three-day food and wine extravaganza.


The highlight of the visit, which was actually the main reason for

going there, was dinner at ARZAK Restaurant.

There’s so much to tell, I’ll let you know all about it next week.


The rest of the trip was filled with bar hopping from pintxo (pronounced “pincho”) bar to pintxo bar (pintxo is the Basque word for tapas). They are called pintxo’s because many of them have a pintxo (Spanish for spike), typically a toothpick —or a skewer for the larger varieties— through them.  The old part of town where we hung out is set on a hillside with cobblestone streets and bar after bar.  Our absolute favorite is a One Michelin star eatery called Fuego Negro (black smoke).  Uber hip with a young, cool crowd we absolutely freaked over the tasting menu we ordered – it was course after course of orgasmic bites of food. For example, one course arrived on a small tray with three coloured balls lined up.  The server explained one is crab, one is avocado and one is liquorice ice cream, take a little of each on your fork before you eat.

San Sebastian is like a mini Barcelona.  The views and seaside are staggeringly beautiful and glamorous, there is a wonderful history there.  The Annual International Film Festival draws many stars each year; I guess we could have been sitting beside Antonio Banderas if we had been at ARZAK two nights before. Oh, and don’t miss breakfast at Avenida XXI near the beach.  The best café con leche in the world and a mind blowing grilled brioche with marmelada syrup – Liere, actually ran to the train station while we were leaving to hand me a container full of the syrup as a gift from the owner.  That is what the Spanish people are like. Eskerrik asko San Sebastian.

Jennifer Schell is editor of B.C. Wine Trails Magazine.